CL Liveblog: Stuttgart-Barça

Champions League is back, as is the liveblogging! This game is being broadcast on Fox Sports en Español as well as your local Fox Sports affiliate in HD (for me in the NYC region with Time Warner it’s MSG+). Check your local listings. Kickoff at 2:45pm, this liveblog will be starting a few minutes prior to that.

By Isaiah

Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in the greater Philadelphia area.


  1. off-topic, but this would be incredible:
    Guus Hiddink has been offered to train the Ivory Coast national team until the WC ends. Didier Drogba urged the Ivorian FA to appoint him and also spoke to Guus personally.
    Guus Hiddink would like to take this opportunity, but the only problem right now is the Russian FA, because oficially Guus’ contract ends in August… let him go, Russia! And my belief in the Ivory Coast will be re-established, after it was smashed down by the horrible African Cup of Nations.

    1. Yes, that’s true. But he has nothing to do until then, except of one or maybe two friendlies with Russia that are meaningless 🙂

      Ivory Coast already has the players, they only lack a real coach…

    2. Yeah, that would be awesome! I really like Ivory Coast NT. Sometimes I want to go coach them myself 🙂

  2. Champions league is back.
    The LiveBlog is back.
    “2 Games a Week” is back.

    Could life be better? 🙂

    1. Yes. 4 goals for us in the first 4 minutes of the match. Then life would be perfect. Oh, and I wouldn’t have to be working today, which will necessitate me catching the match latelatelatelate.

    2. Oh and you know what else? 😀
      I’ve already eaten dinner so interrupting like before!Yay! 😀

  3. Very difficult to predict the lineup today, with all the players who are in questionable fitness.

    As far as I can tell Ibra will definitely be fit, and Xavi and Alves are questionable.

    Without Either:
    Puyol – Pique – Marquez – Maxwell
    Busquets – Yaya – Iniesta
    Messi – Ibra – Henry

    With Alves Pique and Puyol in the center of defense.

    I have a strange feeling that if Xavi starts we’ll see Iniesta on the LW.

    The LW is the most questionable position no matter what, as I could argue for Henry, Pedro, Iniesta, or even Bojan to start there.

    1. Well Pep stated in a press conference that Xavi/Alves are going to available for selection. If Xavi is even a maybe-he starts.

      I’m going for:


      Just cause I want to see Yaya (but it’ll probably be Busi over Yaya)

  4. man ya’ll, I just have a good feeling about this game. I had a hunch we would lose to patetico and we did, but now I feel really good about this Stutgart game. We seem to be very focused and I’m almost confident Messi’s lack of spark on Saturday was him saving up for today. Also, I think the team really wants to show everybody that we are still the best team in the world and to stop doubting them. I’m calling it right now:

    3-0 Messi with a brace and un golazo for Pedrazo!

  5. And I have a bad feeling today, just like before Atlético…

    Hope your feeling is better than mine 🙂

  6. My predicted lineup:

    Puyol – Marquez – Pique(Milito) – Maxwell
    Busquets – Yaya – Iniesta
    Messi – Henry – Bojan

    The reason is: Ibra, Alves and Xavi are still recovering from knocks.

    1. That would be cool!!!! I love Gangsta Ninja!!!! Can’t wait… bring it on goddamn-ed already!!!

  7. Xavi and Ibra start, if is reliable. Henry is benched, so is Alves. Iniesta plays on the left attackin wing. I would really have liked to see Henry starting…

    1. Arg! I was so close!

      Official Lineup:

      Puyol – Pique – Marquez – Maxwell
      Xavi- Yaya – Busi
      Messi – Ibra – Iniesta

    2. i’m seeing a 4-2-2-2 magic box a la el inginiero pellegrino for this match. should be alotta fun to watch.

  8. //

    toure xavi busquets midfield w/goal scoring iniesta on the wings.

  9. This is exactly the kind of game Ibra will score against to get his sharpness back. 3-1 barca. Messi, Ibra, henry

    1. Here’s to hoping Ibra gets the massive gorilla off his back with regards to Champions League knockout rounds.

  10. No…. Henry has to start. Happy for Ibra to play CF but leave Xav/Iniesta in the middle with Yaya as Dm. We need to start our best team if they are available. don’t think Alves is vital as long as Maxwell pushes on. I’d like to see how he works in a second game with Henry.

    I’m in the good feeling camp . . . as long as Messi stays wide.

  11. Apparently Guardiola also likes what he sees with Busquets backed by The Yaya. 😀

    Some disturbing quotes from Alves. I know that contract talks are a lot of BS in the run-up, but still ….

    “At the moment I’m happy at Barcelona and intend to see out my contract here. Interest from them [Chelsea] gives me great satisfaction, knowing that they are one of the biggest teams in world football.

    “My situation is that I have a contract at Barcelona, and despite everything that has been said, there is nothing to sign. I can’t speak for Barcelona, but for my part I have a contract and want to continue, regardless of their interest in renewing my contract or not.

    “But at the moment everything is uncertain because they have neither come to me with an agreement, nor me to them.”


    1. Ewww, he just wants a stupid pay rise nothing else. He’s just acting. Oh you stupid Brazilian Hummingbird, you don’t argue with your own club! 🙂

    2. is there any player out there in the world that could play the role alves does as well as he does??? I can’t think of a single right back who could.

    1. Yeah, amazing how this gravatar thing just populated my comments automatically.

      ****spoiler for the manga****

      It is Uchiha Madara’s Eternal Mangekyou Sharingan.

  12. iniesta will drift to the right to link up w/xavi like he did during inter game @ the camp nou. messi will play as a false 9 and ibra will link up w/maxwell on the left, i’m thinking.

    stupid work. i gotta watch this all 2hour delayed & shit.

  13. The pitch seems to be in a very good shape, and the weather is 9°C, no precipitation. Good preconditions!

    1. maybe not very good, but at least good considering the weather here in Germany during the last 5 weeks^^

    2. ..And we don’t have Howard Webb reffing our game! Although, I confess I don’t know much about our Dutch(?) referee team, lead by Bjorn Kuipers.

      Is he a Colina, or an Ovrebo 😀 ?

    3. He denied us a clear penalty (on Iniesta, I suppose) in a CL match, but I don’t remember which one it was…

    4. Hehe. Hleb interview on German TV (sky sports (?) )


      It’s a veetle stream, in German, but the quality is amazing.

      We have the Olympics right now, so all the channels are pretty much dedicated to it–especially the one that usually airs the CL 🙁

      They moved it to another channel–but they’re going to show Olympiakos v Bordeaux instead 🙁 . Still, I’m holding out for a sudden change in plans…

  14. I’m incredibly nervous about this game. I think it’ll be close, maybe 1-1 or 1-0. If that’s the case, then I look forward to the smashing we’ll be treated to on the return leg.

  15. My prediction is 3-0 (we win, duh!). Against Racing I remembered to wear my Barça pin AND I set the wallpaper on my phone screens with a picture of GhostFace and a picture of Rafa. The results speak for themselves. Today I have my pin, I have a picture of Iniesta on my phone and a picture of the team. Therefore, I expect a man of the match performance from Iniesta and some cohesive team play. I dunno about the goals, but I think one will come from Ibra.

    Also – how do I get a picture next to my name? Do I email it to someone? I haven’t been able to keep up with the blog like I usually do, things at work are weird and I gotta make sure my job is secure. Stupid California economy.

    1. Lovelymofo, go to and sign up. Make sure you use the same email you use for this site!

    2. Visit and get set up. Then as long as you use the associated e-mail, your avatar will go wherever you go. 😀

  16. I used to trust our medical staff & Pep but since Alves got injured warming up after his injury and got re injured im a bit off. Hence why I don’t like Xavi in the lineup.

  17. hello? livebloggy? i need links so i can watch the game while my boss is out. word on california’s crappy economy. stupid schwartznegger. we shoulda elected jesse the body ventura instead.

  18. Was gonna watch this on the DVR later, but I have made a late decision to skip class. Barça over school, right? 😀

  19. Well if Cruyff thought Saturday was Pep’s worst he now has a new standard. Nobody playing well, but for me Pep to take the blame so far.

    Move Iniesta back to midfield and bring Henry on with Busi coming off. It’s not hard and should have been how we started. Tel Messi to stay wide. He’ll be in the game less but will be more effective when he is.

    Defense looks very slow against this attack.

  20. 1. No man has ever looked as happy as Ibra did when he scored that goal.

    2. Ibra is badass as hell.

    3. Lehman is fucking crazy.

    4. Puyol was to blame for the first goal, but it could be argued that the cross was simply worldclass. Puyol also prevented a goal for 2-0 and stuff.

    5. Cacau was class, and a real gentleman as well, apologising and swapping shirts with Iniesta, and looking generally modest and down to earth.

    6. Laudrup cannot pronounce Hleb.

    7. Valdes owns

    8. Pique had a great game

    1. I’m not sure about Piqué having a great game. He was OK, did well sometimes but wasn’t good enough in the 1st like everyone else (though better than the rest I suppose).

      Agreed on the other points.

    2. I agree that Pique had a relatively good game in such collectively shitty performance. Everyone was bad in the first half. But during that horrible period, he was the one who brought the ball forward to push the line up in the midfield instead of playing dangerous passes on our half. He bailed us out quite a lot of times in my memory, of course he made some mistakes too, just like everyone else today. but don’t forget the goal he set up. I saw some leadership in his display today.

    3. Pique is a leader, ive seen it enough times, example at chelsea and other games i cant remember at the moment to be of the opinion he hates to lose more than anyone on the team,Its a long time till he can be captain, but after puyi and Xavi retire he should be 1 of the 4.

    4. I agree that the team was not good in that the passes were a little off and there was very little genuine threat from our team.

      But to me it looked like we were deliberately playing useless possesion in lower gear for the first half in an away match to take advantage of the tired team in the 2nd half. The pressure was on them to take something from the game to have a chance of balancing the difficult game at Camp Nou.

    5. Uh!! You seem to have missed a certain Serdar Tasci,,, Absolute wall in their defense!! Me likey Tasci

  21. I don’t want to hear any Ibra has a problem with Messi talk. After that shove, the big guy HAS Messi’s back. THAT was my moment of the match. What a crazy game. Stuttgart should be ashamed of themselves with that pitch. I guess teams this year have added shit patches to their anti-Barca futbol tactics. Have some class people.

  22. Imo the pitch was okay, we played the worst match of the season today, but it was due to Stuttgart’s mentality and ours…

    1. IMO we didn’t play all that bad, especially in the 2nd half.. 1-1 isn’t particularly a bad result to take home, where hopefully we can force the issue a bit more..

      And Jens Lehmann is MAD!

    2. Jens Lehmann is a crazy guy 😀

      Most hilarious comment of the day in German Pay-TV was when they compared player-by-player: “Jens Lehmann vs Victor Valdés – I think Stuttgart has a clear advantage here”.
      German rainbow press Bild claimed the same on their website. Hello??? First of all, Valdés is one of the best keepers, and Lehmann is well-known for stupid errors and crazy moves as he did today…

      And yes, especially given our performance for most parts of the match, a 1-1 is a VERY good result. Plus, it’s better than a 0-1 ^^

    3. The pitch was a shambles, it was like there were playing on gravel. I was watching the game in HD and the ball was bobbling all over the place, players were slipping, the ball was getting caught under the players feet, etc. Messi got into the box within 5 mins and his foot literally got caught in the pitch causing him to slip. Its a pathetic, dangerous tactic. I really hope they get an ass kicking when they come play at the Nou Camp on an actual football pitch. YEs, we played crap, but that doesnt make it anymore acceptable to use pitch degredation as a tactic. There should really be minimum pitch standards.

  23. Pep should have started Iniesta in midfield, I think, and Henry on left. I thought he’s gonna take Busquests out for Henry but..
    Anyways, Sttugart’s counter-attack was really scary/ fast.
    And I like what Ibra did for Messi:D

  24. After that trash first half, I’ll take the 1-1. I hate when we start off games like that. That garbage needs to stop.

    1. We’ve done it almost every away game in europe, even at Bayern, lyon, Chelsea, and it pisses me off because we make it harder for ourselves.Im guessing pep laid into them or told them “not fit to wear the shirt “or something because they came out much better in the second half, and messi started to pass more.The good thing though is coming back to Camp Nou we should be able to handle it in our house.We didnt win any away knockout games last year so home form is crucial and hopefully we wont have another Rubin kazan moment.

  25. Ya, that performance was very poor.
    I think it shows how ineffective Iniesta is at left wing. He is too good a central midfielder to completely nullify his abilities by throwing him out on the wing.
    HE IS NOT MESSI. Stop trying to make him into Messi.

    Ibra needed that goal and I’m glad he got it.

  26. I think we shouldve had penalty for that ibra strike, but i wont harp on about it,

    Busi public enemy number1 in STuttgart 😀

    1. I just don’t understand how that wasn’t a penalty. Also I felt the offside call on Pique when ibra knocked it in should have been a goal, but them’s the breaks. we’re so lucky we got an away goal.

  27. iniesta on the left wing has proved ineffective time and time again. i understand the initial choice of busquets and yaya in the midfield, but with no width, and horrible passes from everyone, our wings were left for dead. this is only worsened by the fact Puyol has about as much offense as I have a shot of being paid to play football in the near future. this forces messi into the “false nine” position, ibra waiting to receive passes but surrounded by 4 defenders and empty wings with no threat of offense.

    it seemed henry helped provide width and when messi was more out to the right we had more options, but the problem is Henry just is not a scoring threat anymore. and with fewer diagonal runs into the boxes his crosses aren’t effective either. yeah our defense was scrappy and our midfield was spraying passes everywhere but with out a left winger our attacking trident is dull and useless. it’s easy to contain messi and ibra when you know exactly what they are going to do.

  28. Love how AS and MARCA(especially AS) devoted half their online page to us.
    Man, they really dig us!:)

    1. Haha, especially the last articles on are all devoted to the referee’s decisions and alleged penalties. But at least, they also write about possible penalties FOR Barca, so they have improved their coverage 🙂

  29. Iniesta certainly wasn’t effective, but Henry didn’t improve things either. it was a collectively bad performance.

  30. That’s three well-below-par games in a row now: Atleti away, Racing at home, and now this. What is it about February that makes us suck? We had our only blip last year around this time, the year before that the season completely collapsed around this time, and now this.

    Let’s hope we’ll play through it.

  31. The problem was Xavi, we play better without him, how do I know? Because we played better on Saturday.


    Just wanted to point out how stupid that sounds when they say that we play more fluidly without Ibra.

    So please stop with those comments. It’s about how the TEAM plays not one player.

    1. It can be about the team but it can also be one or two players in vital positions not pulling their weight. If both Xavi and iniesta have a bad game we aint playing well as a team. Or, it could be as tonight, a vital player being played out of position together with no real attempt to keep any width. The reason the movement was more successful (first half) Saturday was we managed to use the full width of the Nou Camp and we kept the ball moving quickly.

      Even in the second half when Iniesta moved back and we started to regain some rhythm I felt we were content to just re -establish our possession game rather than keep the tempo up on offense.

      Not a good night all round and worrying although its still in our hands.

    2. Yes one player can either benefit or harm the team. But the overall TEAM play is based on the entirety of the the team not one person. Yes if Xavi AND Iniesta have a bad day then of course it’s going to have a negative impact on the entire team because they play such a vital role. But to say that any ONE player makes of breaks the team or makes or breaks the fluidity of our team is far fetched at best.

  32. I’m going to post this here on this blog since this gets more activity
    Some people are trying to pin the blame on Toure for this bad performance that’s not fair at all on Yaya dude has 1 bad game coming back from an injury and lets not forget he has also not featured at all consistently through out this season and all of a sudden he holds the blame for this game.

    The reason it counts for Ibra is because he has shown week in and week out that sending Eto’o and a huge sum of money was not justified. You never have seen me criticize Ibra before but now is the business end of the season and he is showing little promise.
    He expects the ball to fall in his lap he makes no effort. I’m calling it how I see it I have 0 bias to anyone at Barcelona.

    Now lets look at Sergi who has for some reason undeservedly replaced Yaya in midfield and with that has broke what the best midfield in world football last year.

    Has he shown 1 game where you can say he is in the same class as Yaya?

    Yaya is not allowed to have 1 bad game? But yet we gone overlook Sergi and Ibra both who have replaced superior players.

    1. I don’t think anyone was blaming Yaya for today’s match. The entire team played like crap in the first half.

    2. Mate who has blamed Yaya? I also hope you’re around to eat crow when Busi becomes a household name after the world cup.

  33. All Keita does is run around like a headless chicken he isn’t productive just a hard worker, you giving him too much credit.

    What was missing today was Yaya occupying his position with Xavi and Ineista in their respective positions, Iniesta on the left just doesn’t cut it.
    He is the best in the world when he is playing alongside Xavi, I really believe Xavi is half the player when Inesta in not playing along side him he has admitted this too.

    1. it is very interesting, because what you said about Keita is exactly what i think we lacked in this match – runs.

      we were crap from the first minute. we improved in the second half with more control and possession especially in the midfield, but we were still collectively poor. xavi was very active and involved in almost every ball we got in the upper third. yet, no play happened, why? because there wasn’t any movement. ibra was doing his usual center role, which can’t be blamed because he was keeping 2 defenders with him. but we had no width at all. puyol tried to overlap, but he never is the type that can surge to the corner flag and make things happen. so xavi had to pull back to the midfield all the time.

      iniesta and henry both didn’t make impact on the left flank. iniesta has the tendency to go back to his usual role, so he drifted to the center all the time instead of doing what usually henry does best on the flank. but while henry is on, nobody passed the ball to him. he only got the ball once on the left and he made a cross which found no one. call it shit play or whatnot, but he did cross the damn ball, and the result goes back to the running problem – nobody was trying to make any decent running, finding space created by ibra, henry, or messi.

      the yaya did not play particularly bad. because everyone was bad. maybe he didn’t quite do his holding midfield role well, so he was replaced. but i still don’t see why busi could stay. the midfield improved in the second half because we have xaviniesta back in the area together. and also in general they all improved quite a bit. so i don’t know.

      but if only we had keita, we will see someone bombing the box with speed and power. his work is often underestimated because it is hardly visible, but the effect is there. try to watch closely when he play again.

    2. sweeeping generalizations about a player who is out injured from a guy who doesnt’t follow this blog enough as he should. but then again i’m too drunk to comment too so i’ll cut you some slack. wayyy quaffededed. great beginning to the second half. all i remember right now. be back w/my oh so insightful & life affirming commentary later.

    3. I indeed follow this blog often but hey its your choice to not agree wit me…but what I’m saying is that imagine Keita out there instead of Busquets..He could’ve easily swap positions with Iniesta when the moment was right. Look back on most games Iniesta plays on the left there is always Keita there to be on the left as backup/to swap wit it…This was evident in games b4 the ACN and after it…

      Just take Getafe game as a pure example of Keita performing on the left..He is so much underrated to many of you…

    4. i was replying to the “evil that men do” dude not you, tajh. we on the same page although you don’t read the comments correctly then give my comment a negative rating.

    5. Actually to most of us on this blog, we rate Keita very highly, and realize his massive contribution to our holding midfield. His strength and physical play help us get the ball back quickly and his quick quality passes and runs are essential to our passing game.

  34. By the by…

    What the fuck? Now I know Cacau made him look like a little child but Hleb sending him head over heels is something I’d never thought I’d see.

    1. as president of the rafa marquez fan club, southern california chapter, i officially deny this as ever happening…until i watch this game again.

  35. What the fuck was with our line up!? Puyol & Messi on RW, Maxwell & Iniesta on LW… Who the fuck is supposed to provide the damn width!? Only maxwell was our legitimate winger today!! With Stuttgart pressurizing our mid field like mad dogs, we really needed wing play to counter the Germans, a Thierry Henry or a Daniel Alves were desperately needed in flanks!! The first half display of Stuttgart is precisely because of this one reason! We didn’t have no wing play when they were cruising all over our mid field!! Introduction of Thierry Henry had made wonders even if he might not have had the best of his games… Because for one we now had a winger and secondly Iniesta was back in the mid field without having to bother himself to move into flanks now & then!!
    IMO, wrong line up but very good substitutions from Pep. Hope he trusts the kids or Henry more and plays Iniesta only in the mid field… at least until Alves is fit and back into the squad!!

    1. When does Alves come back? Soonish?

      I can see why Pep would like Jeffren to play at right back. He’d provide that width we were missing today and he’s fast.

    2. Ka-ching!

      Somebody is on the right track 😀 . Maybe Alves is more valuable than he is given credit for 😉 .

    3. from what i remember messi was trying to supply width on the right while maxwell did the same on the left. maxwell tried his best but stuttgart’s right winger kind of neutralized that. puyi tried to pick up the slack but that was never really gonna work out.

  36. why didn’t pep take busi off for henry instead he took off yaya.
    and why did pep ask bartra to warm up? was he planning to take busi out(injury to his ankle) and put pique at DM and move puyol back to CB?

    1. I noticed that Yaya was slow and he was NOT turning the ball to the attacking positions from defence as quickly as xaviiniesta usually do.

      With the Batra warm up I think you are right. The only thing that comes to mind is that he wanted to move somebody like Pique to the holding midfielder role, move puyol to centre back, and move Batra to the right wing.

  37. just rewatched the first half, Yaya deservedly got subbed out. more details to be posted on kxevin’s review post.

  38. I was bit more vehement yesterday but thinking over it, it was decent performance.

    If i take last seasons CL knockout away rounds, we had 1-1 in Lyon, 1-1 in Munich, 1 – 1 in Chelsea so we did not win any. Yesterday on a pitch that was acting slightly and opponent who was really charged up, we had scored draw away from home.

    I think yesterday we played a 4-4-2 in first half and it failed. This is the reason why Messi was in the center all the time with Ibra. And due to our mid four, the field was very narrow. Stuttgart were defending very well in middle. Due to lack of width, we really suffered. Messi started to go wide at end of first half and our game improved significantly. Not at 100% but much better. After that, we played well. After all, it was a away match.

    One thing is clear though. To win CL again, we will need luck and we will need team to fire at 100%. Even at 90% or 95%, lot of big teams will edge us. We need Henry, Alves and Abidal to really click and our back up’s are still not there, which is understandable.

  39. The worse part is that once Stuttgart were on the roll and we were on the backhand, they started enjoying themselves taking some more risks, dribbling, doing whatever they wanted and it was working all right cause we were all over the place trying to calm shit down.

  40. I haven’t ever seen us suffer as much as we did yesterday in the 1st half, we couldn’t get one pass right we were completely lost. thank god ibra got lucky and managed to catch a ball in the box… but even with the 1-1 henry and xaviniesta we weren’t able to put ourselves ahead in the scoretable. last nigh we were as horrible as it can get I think, a really big dissapointment. In camp nou we should win but we need to improve. hope pep knows what he has to do.

    and if titi is whack just put p! in the wing ’cause he’s pure fire, and andres in his place of course… don’t mess his head up please pep the dude is a midfielder.

  41. hi all!

    i thought it was a great game circumstances taken into consideration. and we’ve a great team. what i mean is we never lose heart and just keep on keeping on. we kept cool. that’s the mark of a great team. the stuttgart goal didn’t shake us. and ibra – a guy i was watching it with, i asked him why he didn’t cheer the goal, and he said, i’d have cheered if it went in the first time. like the second shot was easy. i disagree though. taking that second shot the way he did, that’s coolness. that’s ibracadabra.

    love the blog by the way. civilized.

    isaiah, kxevin, hector: moltes gràcies.

    1. It was definitely not an easy goal for Ibra, he was a bit lucky that the ball bounced back to him, nonetheless his reaction was VERY fast and accurate. He would have scored a second goal if Molinaro hadn’t blocked it off the line with his arm, but I think we cannot argue about it since Stuttgart could also have had 2 penalties (they were less clear, but maybe 2 times a less clear equals one clear penalty).

  42. Review coming this evening, everyone. It’s delayed for a number of reasons, not least of which is the bile-drenched musing that was my first effort that has been binned. Apologies for the delay.

  43. A few things worthy of note, however:

    –Stuttgart played the midfield with an aggression and physicality that we haven’t seen since the Chelsea ties of last season. Every time one of our players got the ball, a guy came blowing in from the back. In the second half, we fixed that by moving the ball more quickly.

    –Hleb was fired up, but he also demonstrated why I noted in the preview that I thought he deserved more time with us.

    More later in the review. Thanks again for the patience, everyone.

    1. He had his flashed and gave Puyol and Marquez a run for their money. He still Hlebbed a few chances though 😀 .

      I think Molinaro was key though. That’s two games in our yearly Horrible February that attacking fullbacks have disrupted one of our wings. Antonio Lopez did it for Atletico and Molinaro did it with Stuttgart. His surges forward kept Puyol in a sort of limbo and pretty much neutralized our overlaps through that wing. Yeah, he played like a thug but he disrupted our width on that side too.

  44. Some ranting:

    – In the first half, it was not only losing possession and inability to consistently get near the opposing box and create danger that killed us; it was also the devastating Stuttgart counter attacks. That’s where we miss Keita. For all the grief he gets about running around like a headless chicken, the guy is a very fast and strong headless chicken who maintains excellent cover position and excels in breaking up counterattacks before they get past midfield. Add to that the absence of another of our primary counter attack disruptors in Abidal and you get an idea of how injuries affected us in this department. Keita, Alves, and Abidal deprive us also of something vital to disrupt counterattacks: speed. They can make up and cover for mistakes with their pace. This means that positioning takes on extra importance in their absence. Marquez, the Yaya, and Busi (albeit to a slightly lesser extent given his more advanced role) in the first half were particularly guilty in this department. It’s all about taking angles when our central holding mid is the one providing diagonal cover. Too often, Yaya or Busi got caught out in bad angles and a Stuttgart counterattack flowed past them with ease. I re-watched the game last night and was particularly surprised at Yaya. This was as bad as I’ve seen him. Pep needs to play him more often and get him back in form. We are going to need him at his best. Positioning was what was killing us during the counterattacks. If Yaya was bad then Marquez was atrocious because Yaya at least has the speed to compensate for faulty positioning whereas Marquez does not.

    – Busi improved a lot when Henry came in and he was withdrawn to the center-mid role. For all the grief he gets, he was splendid for most of the second half. It was hilarious that his play picked up even more once he started getting booed. Maybe we should boo him at the Camp Nou if it will make him play like that.

    – Pique and Maxwell were not bad at all. They did their jobs. Puyol always gives his all but I become more and more convinced every time I see him at right FB that we are asking a bit too much of him there. Molinaro and HLEB(!?!?!) gave him all sorts of trouble. In particular, Molinaro bombing up pushed Puyol back and deprived us of some much needed width while Hleb occasionally got the better of him during counters. I know many are annoyed when Messi is not on the wing but sans Alves he is more containable there. He simply does not have the chemistry with Puyol (who also lacks the offensive technical skills) to play the two man overlap game near the opposing box with effectiveness. He ends up facing two or three defenders who know that he will cut inside and simply force him away from the box. He is good enough to occasionally surpass those odds but it’s not the most effective use of his talents. His best looks came when he dropped in between Stuttgart’s lines and ran at the defense through the center. Without Alves he cannot do this as often or as effectively because it sacrifices width. Credit to Molinaro for a hell of a game though. If Ibra did not get orders to drop to midfield, I would have like to have seen Pedrito come in and play on the right with Ibra drifting to his preferred left and letting Messi go to the middle without sacrificing width. We needed extra help in Midfield.

    – Ibra was starved of service and isolated during the first half. He should have dropped to help out in midfield and become more involved. After his goal he seemed rejuvenated and integrated himself even more to help out with the possession game. During Ibra’s “hot” phase between October and December, one could notice what Pep was doing. He was integrating Abidal a lot more into the attack and dropping Iniesta from the left wing position back into midfield. We often switched to what looked like a 4-4-2 diamond when in transition phase, counting on the fullbacks for width and interchanging positions with increasing fluidity. Our two starting fullbacks being out at the same time hurt us by jeopardizing this tacitc just when we were getting the hang of this system. If you look at Ibra’s goals, he has gotten 5 of his 12 goals in Liga play on crosses from the wings, three of those coming from the fullbacks. The injuries to both of them at the same time hurt us in that aspect. I actually think Alves’ hurt more despite Abidal’s extraordinary form when he got injured because whereas Maxwell has been decent in attack and possession, Puyol and Messi still can’t seem to get on the same page. Let’s put it this way, fullbacks are much more important to us this season than the last one.

    – We are having trouble moving the ball to the vicinity of the opposing area. Our decline in wing play (when a bus is parked, the wings are the best way to go through) has something to do with it as did Xavi being off form. However, our front line has to come down and help more often in these situations. Ibra should have dropped. Iniesta should have also.

    1. Nice points, Hector.

      I particularly agree about Yaya, in all honesty, that was the worst game I’ve seen him play in the Blaugrana. During the first half, I was shocked at his positioning and the number of times he took bad angles to the ball. He looked like a rookie. Add to that the fact that most of his passing were negative short passes and one can understand why he was subbed. Hopefully he gets a chance to improve on that performance against Malaga Saturday. (I doubt he will play, though.)

      And boy did we miss Alves yesterday. Thankfully the 2nd leg is 3 weeks away, giving us a chance to sort out some things.

      Oh, and Milito should have started over Rafa.

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